Cast & Crew
Alfred E. Green
Band leader Skip Houston is popular with everyone except Chicago dancer Bonnie Hayden. She resents the fact that he gets top billing over her even when he is only in town for one day, and to make matters worse, she does not like his music. Publicist Barney Cowan, who is always coming up with crazy publicity stunts, suggests that Skip marry Bonnie to surprise all the people who know they hate one another. Soon after Skip leaves Chicago, Bonnie's agent, Ten Percent Nelson, gets a telegram requesting her talents for a Broadway show. Ten Percent implies that this offer came because of his efforts on her behalf, but actually it was Skip who suggested her. Not realizing this, Bonnie continues her sarcastic exchange with Skip. Just before the show opens, Barney pays chorus girl Lulu Betts to jump in a lake, pretending she is broken-hearted because Skip does not love her. The stunt ends when Lulu's gangster brother, Dopey Malone, insists that someone must marry Lulu, and thus Barney acquires a wife. Unfortunately, the stunt proves to be the last straw for the show's nervous producer, who closes it before it opens. Ten Percent insists that he can find Bonnie work in New York. He talks her into an audition for a radio show sponsored by Selzer Cigars. The Selzer brothers tell Bonnie that they have already signed Skip, and if he approves her, she will get the job. To her surprise, Skip agrees, and the two are billed as the Sweethearts of the Air. After the first show, Bonnie thanks Skip for hiring her and they decide to be friends. Soon Ten Percent has reason to be jealous of Skip because he and Bonnie fall in love. Although Skip has asked the newspaper columnists to be kind to Bonnie, the radio audience does not like her singing, and despite Skip's pleading, the Selzers fire her and replace her with Helen Morgan. Seeing his opportunity, Ten Percent tells Bonnie that Skip wants to fire her and proves his point by taking her to the studio where Skip is rehearsing with Helen. Bonnie does not believe Skip when he protests that he tried to keep her on the show and breaks up with him. Finally Ten Percent manages to get Bonnie an audition for a radio comedy program. When her reading partner does not show up, Ten Percent drags Barney in to read with her. The impromptu comments between Barney, Lulu and Ten Percent, played against Bonnie's straight reading, get all four of them the job and they are very popular. Then another of Barney's publicity stunts results in his breaking his jaw. The program is temporarily taken off the air and Bonnie dances at a benefit performance. There she learns the truth about her firing, and after she is reconciled with Skip, they plan to wed. Because he is going to lose his only client, Ten Percent takes on Dopey, who has always had a desire to be a crooner.
Alfred E. Green
Rudy Vallee's Connecticut Yankees
The Frank And Milt Britton Band
Leo F. Forbstein
James Van Trees
Sweet Music (1935) - Sweet Music
Vallee made his film debut in 1929 in the early talkie musical The Vagabond Lover but it wasn't until he appeared in a few musical shorts and a top-billed role in George White's Scandals (1934) that the singer/musician began to loosen up on camera and display the smooth, self-assured and witty performance style that made him the singing sensation of his era. In Sweet Music, Vallee plays orchestra conductor and singer Skip Houston, a popular entertainer who clashes over marquee billing with Chicago dancer Bonnie Haydon (Ann Dvorak). Their constant feuding gives way to romance, however, once they begin preparing for a Broadway show together. Complications quickly send the two musical talents on separate career paths which eventually lead back to a reunion and marriage. But the plot is incidental in Sweet Music - to take a cue from the title, what the movie offers are representative samples of Vallee's stage show featuring songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin (the title song), Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal ("There's a Different You") and Mort Dixon and Allie Wrubel ("I See Two Loves"). Ms. Dvorak gets to demonstrate her athletic rendition of tap dancing (she worked as a chorus girl and assistant choreographer at Warner Bros. before she became a featured actress), the famous torch singer Helen Morgan makes a memorable cameo and plenty of comic relief is provided by Ned Sparks and Allen Jenkins as Bonnie and Skip's scheming managers/publicists.
The first half of Sweet Music has a wacky charm that looks back toward the comedy routines of vaudeville but also forward to the madcap musical antics of Spike Jones and his Orchestra in the forties. In the opening production number, Vallee's musicians (members of The Frank and Milt Britton Band) cut loose in a Three Stooges-like free-for-all in which a trombonist imitates the sound of an airplane, fellow musicians spray each other with seltzer bottles, and Rudy is tripped by a band member and goes sprawling across the floor as he introduces a chorus of fan dancers (they turn out to be a bunch of burly men in drag and even do a brief parody of Busby Berkeley's geometric dance patterns). For the nonsense song "Outside," Vallee demonstrates his knack for impersonations and sings in a variety of accents as he spoofs cultural stereotypes. The show-stopping finale of "Fare Thee Well, Annabelle" - an elaborate production number which was adapted from one of Vallee's Broadway shows - is a throwback to the minstrel shows of the 19th century with its blackfaced chorus dancers cavorting on Art Deco sets amid Vallee's homage to le jazz hot.
Sweet Music, was a hit with audiences and many critics enjoyed it as a frivolous but pleasing entertainment. Andre Sennwald of The New York Times wrote, "Far from being the grave and soulful songbird which his gleeful enemies used to lampoon, Rudy Vallee goes to great lengths in Sweet Music to show that he is one of the boys. During the rambling and somewhat informal progress of the new photoplay at the Strand, the eminent radio and night club entertainer not only sings his songs but also participates in the head-breaking frolics of the Frank and Milt Britton lads. When he is not making love to his radio rival, Miss Ann Dvorak, or adjusting his famous voice to the expert numbers which the Warners have assembled for him, Mr. Vallee may be found imitating Fred Allen or cracking his opponents over the head with his violin. Sometimes, to be sure, Mr. Vallee injects into his carefree clowning a slightly arch quality, but in general he is a hail fellow who wears his fame no more gravely than you yourself would under the circumstances."
While Rudy Vallee is clearly the star of Sweet Music, Ann Dvorak is afforded ample screen time to display her lovely gams and a flair for rapid repartee. The part is more decorative than substantial and is typical of so many of the movies she made at Warner Bros. that squandered her talent. With the exception of Scarface (1932), her breakthrough leading role, and a few memorable parts in such Pre-Code favorites as The Crowd Roars, The Strange Love of Molly Louvain and Three on a Match (all in 1932), Dvorak was mostly confined to B pictures by the studio and it prevented her from becoming a major star. She would later transition to supporting roles in such movies as The Long Night (1947) and A Life of Her Own (1950). One of her final screen appearances, I Was an American Spy (1951), based on real life espionage agent Claire "High Pockets" Phillips, was said to be one of her favorite film roles. As for Dvorak's role opposite Rudy Vallee in Sweet Music, she had already had an unofficial "dress rehearsal" for the part when she starred in Crooner in 1932; that film, co-starring David Manners in the title role, was clearly inspired by Vallee's popularity as evidenced by the self-absorbed, megaphone-sporting singer of the title.
Producer: Samuel Bischoff
Director: Alfred E. Green
Screenplay: Jerry Wald (story and screenplay); Jerry Wald, Carl Erickson, Warren Duff (screenplay)
Cinematography: James Van Trees
Art Direction: Robert M. Haas
Music: Bernhard Kaun (uncredited)
Film Editing: Herbert Leonard
Cast: Rudy Vallee (Skip Houston), Ann Dvorak (Bonnie Haydon), Ned Sparks ('Ten Percent' Nelson, the Press Agent), Helen Morgan (Herself), Robert Armstrong ('Dopey' Malone), Allen Jenkins (Barney Cowan, publicity man), Joseph Cawthorn (Sidney Selzer), Alice White (Lulu Betts Malone), Al Shean (Sigmund Selzer), Phillip Reed (Grant, the Announcer).
by Jeff Stafford